Cambridge academics are being discouraged from praising students for their “genius”, “brilliance” or “flair” because these are seen as male qualities.
Tutors at the prestigious university are being told to drop the attributes as assessment criteria on the grounds that they alienate women and make it harder for them to succeed.
The policy is part of an overhaul of arts teaching at Cambridge, which also encompasses removing paintings of eminent male academics and stripping men’s work out of reading lists.
The strategy was outlined by Dr Lucy Delap, who is carrying out the program in Cambridge’s faculty of history.
Dr Delap – who belongs to the university’s all-female Murray Edwards college – said that rewarding brilliance or flair “carries assumptions of gender inequality” and also discriminates against poor and ethnic minority students.
Her intervention, on the BBC’s Today program (from 2hrs, 38mins), came a day after it was revealed that Oxford’s history department has overhauled its exam structure to make it easier for women to get first-class degrees.
Delap, who has published extensively on feminism and gender history, told the program:
Female students arriving at an Oxbridge college can still find it a male-dominated environment.
If you look at something as simple as the art on the walls of a college, it’s often by men, they depict men and often they’re white men as well, their reading lists…
We want to use language that is transparent. We’re rewriting our first two years of our History degree to create a wider set of paper choices, to make assessment criteria clearer, and to really try and root out the unhelpful and very vague talk of “genius”, of “brilliance”, of “flair” which carries assumptions of gender inequality and also of class and ethnicity.
She denied that her plans amounted to “censoring out male influence”.